By Bob Smith
Kitsap News Group
PORT ORCHARD — Pocket parks — those slivers of green serenity sandwiched between the hustle and bustle parcels of urban life — have become trendy additions to city landscapes throughout the U.S.
Port Orchard is no different. It boasts its own micro-parks, the most recent being the Mary Ann Huntington Children’s Park that’s tucked next to Marina Park on the city’s waterfront.
Two new pocket parks are being designed for the city by architect Emily Russell of Russell Design Source that will soon provide small doses of greenery in two locations.
Russell presented preliminary design concepts to the City Council during its March 21 work study session at City Hall. Labeled the Mosquito Fleet Park Concept, two pocket parks under design will sit on the waterfront — Waterfront Park will be placed near the gazebo, and the other, Rockwell Park, will front Bay Street and sit in between the Marlee Apartments and the Comfort Inn motel.
Both pocket parks will abut the completed pedestrian pathway connecting the downtown waterfront with the Annapolis pier for pedestrians and bicyclists when all project phases are finished over the next few years.
After the presentation, council members and the mayor debated the initial concepts and opted for the parks to emphasize open space and seating that’s optimized to view the water and mountain vistas.
Newly modified design concepts were given to Rob Putaansuu, Port Orchard mayor, earlier this week.
Putaansuu said terraced grass seating at Rockwell Park would be conducive for family picnics or for visitors to sit and gaze out at Sinclair Inlet. The site also would include some public parking as well as beach access for visitors.
“We have a great kayak launch point and a sandy beach there,” he said, “as well as some interpretive signs. I think this is a great little pocket park.”
Funding from the state Legislature — $309,000 — for the Rockwell park is pending in the House budget, he said, and passage, followed by the governor’s signature, would follow.
The Waterfront Park has been designed to create more seating and lawn terracing for the gazebo and its summer concert goers. It will include a pervious paved plaza to provide green open space for the public, and for the summer farmers market, car shows and other public events.
A compelling feature in the first concept design — an arbor trellis structure with swinging benches — will be included in the new design.
“The council and I really liked it,” Putaansuu said, “plus we really like the openness of the concept. We added some sculptural interpretive signing to these first concepts.”
The new pocket park will replace roughly 60 parking slots now used for commuter parking. “I think this is a much better public use of the waterfront than it is storing cars on it,” the mayor said.
Putaansuu said existing and future park and ride lots can be better utilized by commuters. He expects that when fast ferry sailings begin out of Southworth, the waterborne route served by a larger-capacity boat will prove to be more suited for South Kitsap commuters heading into Seattle.
The mayor said he hopes to have construction begin on Rockwell Park next year after the funding award is received.
The second park, he hopes, will reach the construction phase in the next two years.
“I’m hoping to see these built in the next three to five years. I think this is realistic,” Putaansuu said.
A final cost estimate won’t be completed until funding amounts are determined in the next 60 days, he added. In the meantime, Putaansuu has begun giving presentations about the concepts to the hodge-podge of parcel owners at Waterfront Park.
“We control the parking area,” he said, pointing to a layout of the park location, “but it’s the Port of Bremerton that leases it with the Department of Natural Resources, so I’ve got to get some consensus from the Port, too.